Big Government: Myths and Realities

In this season of republican primaries there has been a lot of talk going on about how big government is strangling our economy. At the same time we are being told that the democrats are hell-bent on turning the U.S. into a european style socialist/welfare state. It is alleged that innovation and creativity is being stifled by the big government. The republican rhetoric, backed as it is by guns and bible, is rather loud and obnoxious. But that is no excuse to not look at the issue provided we do so with a dose of logic and reason thrown into the mix. Humbly I ask you to lend me you ear (or should it be eyes) and I promise to reveal you the real truth and shed some misconceptions along the way.

All right so the republicans would have us believe that the real cause of our current economic struggles is big government, over-regulation and over-spending being two main facets. It is a clever strategy to employ. Most people in U.S. are habitually suspicious of big government. It is a land of immigrants, most of whom came here to be free. Republicans know how to play on that emotion. Let us look at the issue of regulation first. I am sure there are some government agencies and laws that only have a nuisance value and need to be reformed. We have all encountered government bureaucracy at some point and it is a frustrating experience (DMV anyone?). In fact, government is synonymous with inefficiency. We naturally respond positively to the notion of trimming down the government.

 Be that as it may, we are fortunately not living the Kafkaesque nightmare of forms filled in triplicate to get even a simple task done. You would think that the talk of reining in big government would center around eliminating inefficiencies. Alas, the emphasis is on mindless de-regulation, ostensibly to help businesses. We are already being told to forget that the financial crisis was triggered by a lack of regulation, not because of over-regulation. Environmental regulation is another favorite topic in the regulatory saga; EPA is constantly derided by the republicans. Give me a break, do you know what happens when we do not force businesses to care for the environment. We only need to look at India and China to see the results of that policy. The irony is that the republican majority in the house has been primarily responsible for the inefficient government we have had to contend with for last year or so. It takes months for this current congress to pass legislation that could help the economy. Inaction due to bull-headed ideology trumping practicality passes off as reining in government I suppose. Their stance on social issues is even more hypocritical. Apparently more regulation is better when it comes to gay rights and women’s rights. So yeah, we cannot have people marrying who they want and women cannot have control of their own bodies but businesses can pretty much do anything.

Similarly muddled thinking is prevalent on the topic of taxation and spending. There obviously has to be a balance between the two. From republicans’ standpoint social safety net programs — unemployment, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, are the root of all evil. I will grant that we need to reform these programs. For example, increasing retirement age is something that has to happen, we are living longer on average. But these programs are not to blame for all our budgetary problems. We cannot forget that the two expensive wars, one somewhat justified and one completely unnecessary, we fought in the last decade contributed significantly to our current predicament. Any talk about cutting government spending must include cuts in defense spending in addition to cuts in government spending on social programs.

But I suppose it is too much to ask for lucid and rational thinking from present-day republican leaders. They are too busy chanting slogans given to them by the tea-party faithful. Mitt Romney is the only semi-decent candidate in their ranks and they are desperate to find an alternative to him. They have bought into their own spin to the point that the myth of big government is the only reality they can see. It will all end in tears.